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Dr. Omid Bakhtar, a pathologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, began noticing an alarming trend among his pathology reports: Women diagnosed with breast cancer didn't understand their reports.
"I remember one woman cried tears of happiness when she learned that the long string of numbers on her report were part of a billing code, not an indication of aggressive breast cancer like she thought," Dr. Bakhtar recalled. "She was worried simply because she didn't understand."
To combat this problem, Dr. Bakhtar partnered with Sharp Chula Vista's Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Program to create "Meet the Pathologist," a bimonthly series of meetings intended to teach patients how to understand their pathology reports. During these meetings, patients have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Bakhtar and ask specific questions.
Below, Dr. Bakhtar answers some of the questions he's most commonly asked about breast cancer and pathology reports.
What is a pathology report?
A pathology report is perhaps the most important tool in understanding a diagnosis. It tells a breast cancer patient the size and location of her tumor, if it has spread and, most importantly, the stage of disease.
What should I look for in my pathology report?
First and most important, make sure you get a copy of your pathology report. Next, look for the size of your tumor, whether it has spread and the stage of your cancer. Many patients have no idea what stage their cancer is, but understanding this can help them understand other things, like the length of chemotherapy or need for radiation.
What should I do after I've received my pathology report?
Once you've reviewed your report, take the time to discuss it with your oncologist or register for a "Meet the Pathologist" session. Since a number of experts are involved in breast cancer care, your questions can also be answered by a radiation oncologist, surgeon or pathologist.
Find a San Diego Oncologist
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego oncologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.